Leni Riefenstahl, eat your heart out

Citizens Against Government Waste produced a creepily xenophobic bit of agit-prop. Campus Progress promptly responded with a parody. Naturally, the wingnuts, lovers of liberty and small government that they are, used the power of the state – in the form of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – to suppress criticism.

Hereditary plutocrat (and mega-polluter) Peter Grace’s Citizens Against Government Waste has produced a rather skillful piece of right-wing bamboozlement, with a nice xenophobic spin. (Not much historical sense, though; the British Empire was built against a backdrop of Tory whining about the public debt required to win all those wars. And the economics is beyond silly.)

James Fallows thinks it “phenomenal” as propaganda, without reference to its basic mendacity. But judge for yourself.

Campus Progress didn’t take long to respond, simply replacing the subtitles.

Naturally, the CAGW folks, who masquerade as friends of liberty, didn’t hesitate to use the power of the state, in the form of a DMCA takedown notice, to prevent free discourse. YouTube reports “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Citizens Against Government Waste.”

The last time I checked, though, even the Roberts Court hadn’t quite repealed the First Amendment. So I’m going ahead and posting the forbidden re-make.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

11 thoughts on “Leni Riefenstahl, eat your heart out”

  1. I completely appreciate Mark Kleiman's posts and his apparent lack of concern about who might choose to be offended by them enough to push back. I lack his courage but want to acknowledge it.

  2. Well, Citizens Against Govt. Waste is right about the debt, but the remixed rebuttal is also brilliant.

  3. To be fair, Fallows did mention that claims in the original advertisement are all lies, and indeed, the opposite of the truth. "without reference to" is therefore technically false. I think you mean "with brief reference to" or "while brushing away the fact that" or something which notes the Fallows text quoted below.

    "And if you know anything about the Chinese economy, the actual analytical content here is hilariously wrong. The ad has the Chinese official saying that America collapsed because, in the midst of a recession, it relied on (a) government stimulus spending, (b) big changes in its health care systems, and (c) public intervention in major industries — all of which of course, have been crucial parts of China's (successful) anti-recession policy."

    On the Leni Reifenstahl analogy, minds think alike, but some remember how to spell.

    I consider myself to have earned non-sexist credit, which I will now fritter away, by resisting the temptation to speculate that the director of the advertisement is (perhaps a child of) the secret lovechild of Leni Reifenstahl and Sergei Eizenstein.

    I'm not sure the remix can be defended as parody. Is it really possible to parody the claim that the success of the People's Republic of China proves that small government conservatives are right ?

  4. Thanks for posting this, Mark. It wasn't up on youtube when I went looking for it so I'm pleased to find it at one of my fave sites.

    Bruce, with a relatively small mix of allowing all of the Bush tax cuts to expire, some paring back of benefits in Medicare and Social Security, cuts to defense (the main source of discretionary waste), a war tax to actually pay for the costs of our wars (unprecedented in U.S. history to go to war and not pay for it), and a new stimulus package to help families get back on their feet and revive productivity the U.S. could easily take care of its deficit without that much pain. Somehow I doubt that the CAGW would much favor that.

  5. Caphilldcne,

    In other words, with a relatively small mix of measures whose passage would get every member of Congress retired in the next election (mind you, that could be a virtue — but not from the viewpoint of the members of Congress), it's a snap.

  6. To be fair, Fallows did mention that claims in the original advertisement are all lies, and indeed, the opposite of the truth. “without reference to” is therefore technically false. I think you mean “with brief reference to” or “while brushing away the fact that” or something

    I think Mark meant something more like, "…aside from its basic mendacity." I didn't understand "without reference to" to mean that Fallows didn't refer to the mendacity.

  7. You know, I always admired the powerful graphics used by the Nazis. They really knew how to sell hogwash too.

    As far as the copyrights issue here: Not only is this parody but it is rebuttal of a political argument. No doubt if it were a GOP friendly ad rebutting a Democratic piece the courts would throw out any challenge to it without a second thought. But of course rightwing speech is more equal.

  8. The "Citizens Against Government Waste" piece is pretty brilliant as propaganda, the "Campus Progress" piece less so.

    Content is less important than the emotions stirred by electronic media, and so pointing out the historic and economic bullshit is irrelevant to the impact of the piece and, in some ways, repurposing the visuals doesn't do much to change the essential message: China owns America.

    I wonder if the Chinese Americans in the piece knew they were to be the face of America's enemies.

  9. Do I understand the original video correctly? I swear to you, it seems to be saying that, because of our big-government ways, we're going to be overtaken by the Communists!

    But yeah, I'm with Fallows et al on this. I think it works as propaganda. The only "improvement" I'd make is that the Chinese are caricatured in an insufficiently racist fashion. They seem nice to me; I'm not made to feel loathing for their success.

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